Q: In your new MP6 training program, do you go to absolute failure on every set? I love training to absolute failure and can’t get a good feeling if I don’t go balls to the wall all the time.
A: The whole concept of the MP6 Training Program is to increase your muscle strength and size by using cycles lasting six weeks each. The goal is to use a training cycle specifically designed to increase your strength and then follow up with another training cycle that is designed to increase your muscle mass.
I came up with the idea for MP6 because I wanted to find a way to get both bigger and stronger after so many years of training. I just hit my 50th birthday last year, and I noticed that my strength had gone down over the years. That happens as we get older and our bodies change due to decreasing hormone levels.
By using a training cycle specifically constructed to build more power, I was able to increase my strength significantly after only six weeks. Then I was able to use the new strength to lift heavier weights for my Mass Cycle. As we all know, using more resistance for the right number of repetitions will increase muscle.
For the Power Cycle I am using a repetition range from three to five or four to six reps. Lifting that limited number of reps with heavy weights will increase the muscles’ strength. For each exercise I do three work sets. That conditions the body to build more strength in response to the stress imposed on the muscles.
That’s different from using a high-intensity form of training in which you do only one or two work sets and you take them to complete failure with the aid of drop sets or forced reps. The technique used for the MP6 Training Program, in contrast, is one that powerlifters use to increase their strength. It’s the concept of applying progressive resistance over several weeks to slowly coax the body to get stronger.
I do the same thing when I switch over to the Mass Cycle. I use the right resistance for the prescribed number of repetitions. For the Mass Cycle I increase the repetitions to five to seven or six to eight for the compound exercises and eight to 10 for the isolation exercises. I follow the same method of using the same weight on each work set for a certain number of reps. I don’t train to failure, but I am using a weight that challenges the muscles on each set.
When you look at the total volume performed at each workout, you can see how the sessions become progressively harder through the cycle. You compute the total volume by multiplying the weight used on each set by number of sets and reps. For example, if you used 225 pounds for five reps on the first week of the Power Cycle, the total volume would be as follows:
225 pounds x 5 reps x 3 sets = 3375
By comparing the total volume used during a Power Cycle to the subsequent Mass Cycle, it’s easy to see how much more work the muscles are doing when you increase the resistance for the proper number of repetitions. Here are examples of a Power Cycle and a Mass Cycle workout for the barbell bench press with a starting weight of 225 pounds for five reps:
Power Cycle (3-5 reps) Mass Cycle (5-7 reps)
225 x 5 x 3 = 3,375 215 x 7 x 3 = 4,515
235 x 4 x 3 = 2,820 225 x 6 x 3 = 4,050
245 x 3 x 3 = 2,205 235 x 5 x 3 = 3,525
235 x 5 x 3 = 3,525 225 x 7 x 3 = 4,725
245 x 4 x 3 = 2,940 235 x 6 x 3 = 4,230
255 x 3 x 3 = 2,295 245 x 5 x 3 = 3, 675
As the resistance is increased and the reps are decreased, the total volume goes down; however, during the second three weeks of the cycle, strength increases and the total volume goes up. When the Mass Cycle is performed, more reps are being used with increasingly heavier resistance. That adds up to an increase in total volume.
By using the concepts of progressive resistance and cycling, as in MP6, you avoid having to train to total failure every time. The muscles will get bigger and stronger as you gradually force an overload on the body over each six-week cycle.